Posted in Slice of Life, Uncategorized

Advice I Gave Today

Today at training I got asked a lot of questions, because I’ve lived in Japan for over six years (gonna be seven in July). The questions ranged from things that one could Google, but some weren’t so much. I wrote some down just for this particular post, mostly because I want to just be able to pull this post up when people ask in the future.

What do I do about (home country) taxes in Japan? 

For the first year, you’ll have to make sure you file for your home country’s taxes stuff. In America, I had to get a form from a rather surly I.R.S. employee lady that would be used as proof that I’m living abroad so don’t tax me twice, please and thanks.

Be sure to check with your embassy to see what exact rules and regulations there are, because each country is gonna be different. I discovered today that South Africa is awful and demands that people pay taxes in South Africa as well as Japanese taxes no matter what, which I think is robbery but whatever. For us Americans, so long as you don’t have any estate or investments back in the U.S.A., you file your income made in Japan and don’t pay taxes back in America. Once again though, do research and check on

Check your local Japan city hall or ward office if you’ve got Japanese tax questions in particular. Income taxes are deducted automatically from most salaries, you generally have to pay a city tax if you live in a city for over a year, and etc. Talk to people there for more information.

Can I leave my food or drink trash here at this *training center?

Not recommended, as it’s considered bad manners to leave trash in a place that you’re only using temporarily that doesn’t belong to you. Japanese people aren’t going to tell you not to do it, they’ll just not be happy about it and maybe won’t invite you back into the space next time. Also, odds are there will be complaints filed to supervisors about it, too. Not the best way to start off your job at the mere training stages by being known as the “rude” and “gross” employee. Kept a plastic bag on you and throw stuff away later.

*Note: Ignore if your training center is a huge public place with multiple trash cans, I’m talking about a small space with only one or two small bins.

Are Japanese students better than (British/American/ Western) students?

Japanese students aren’t really “better” in the sense of learning or studying than Westerners. They just learn differently. Japanese school systems are still very much lecture based, so it’s difficult to get them out of that format and into an active classroom.

A Japanese student will perhaps on average be more passive and disciplined, but not always. Also, for English language acquisition, both of those traits can be disadvantageous. If a student is passive, then they can’t actively communicate well. If they’re disciplined or really focused, then they are more likely to focus on the wrong aspects on language (i.e. grammar rules over actually trying to speak).

In other words, they have their own sets of challenges.

Where can I buy a (bicycle/electric bike/ kitchen appliances/etc)? 

Recycle shops would be the best place to buy necessary items like a bike or a microwave on a budget. In America we would call them “second hand stores” or “thrift shops,” but I want to emphasize that in Japan second hand items are so gently used they generally look brand new. Everything gets checked to make sure it works, so the odds of you going home with something broken is exceedingly rare. Hard Off and House Off are the two main chain stores with electronic and household things available, Book Off is more for used books and action figures store, and you can get clothes at Book Off Bazaar.

Is it really hard to find a new apartment? 

No, not really for urban areas. Back in the day foreigner friendly apartments were rare, but nowadays through websites and real estate agents you can find an apartment no problem. The real issue is can you afford the move in fees? Usually there’s a one month or two month deposit plus key money, and from there the fees could include cleaning fees, paper work fees, lock exchange fees, fire insurance, life support fees, and the list goes on. You generally need at least 200,000 yen in order to move into a new place in a city.

Now, in the countryside the rules are different. Foreign friendly apartments are harder to find, but the move in costs are usually much cheaper and you can get way more space for less rent money. In many cases, your apartment may even get paid for by a company or school just to have you close by.

But for Tokyo, yeah, save up before you decide you wanna move.

Where should I go to withdraw money? What’s the best bank to use?

Any Japan Post ATM will do foreign cards and most of the time a 7-11 ATM will work too.

If you’re using a domestic Japanese bank card, it’s either a convenience store or your chosen bank’s ATM from 9-5 on working day. I recommend you just simplify your life and get a Shinsei Bank account which is accepted by most convenience stores, Japan Post, and even outside the country. Also, you don’t get charged withdrawing fees from convenience stores with Shinsei and you can withdraw money 24/7.

How to a sort my trash at home? What are trash days?

Every city and even city district is different. Go to your city hall or ward office to get information on that.

And there’s that. I’m sure there are more but I’m exhausted. Tomorrow if I get more questions I’ll answer them here again. Might as well, I’m sure it’s helpful to other people out there too.

 

 

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Posted in Japanese Langauge

Post-JLPT: Feels, Advice, and PANIC

Taking the Japanese Language Proficiency Test (JLPT) N2 meant a lot for me. Unlike previous years wherein I was just taking it for assessment of my language ability, this time it was a step I wanted to take in a different career direction. I’ve been a teacher in Japan for 6+ years and have really enjoyed it, but for all the enjoyment I know that I don’t want to be a teacher forever.

And so, in the video I talk about how I felt after the test (spoiler alert: not victorious) along with what I did in order to study for the test. Even though I’m certain I didn’t pass, I listed a few books here in the video that might help others pass the test (unlike me). Most of these books are easily found online, so I’m going to list them down below. It takes hours upon hours of studying, usually people who pass in one year on their first try have gone to a language school and studied 8 hours a day up until the test.

I’m not giving up, at all, I’ll re-take it again in July. Until then, I’m in a bind because without the N2 certification I can’t prove that I’m proficient enough in Japanese to do something else. If I could, I would turn back time and tell my JET self to quit fooling around and just study harder so I would’ve already passed the test by this point. For those of you in Japan and thinking about sticking around, GET ON IT! Or you’ll end up like me with t-minus four months to go with no certificate and no job prospects other than English teaching.

Use these to study:

Nihongo So-matome

Nihongo So-matome JLPT N2: Grammar - White Rabbit Japan Shop - 1

It describes itself as an 8 week study course to prep for the JLPT, but honestly you should study these way before 8 weeks so you can review all this information before the test again. They’ve got books for all the parts of the test: vocabulary, kanji, reading comprehension, listening, and for all levels N5-N1.

TRY! 日本語能力試験 N2 文法から伸ばす日本語 改訂版

Honestly, this is my new favorite Japanese study book. It puts all the vocabulary and kanji into understandable contexts and situations wherein you would find or use them. You can grasp the grammar lessons well since there is context as well as explanations for the grammar in English. This study book also has listening test in addition to the vocab and grammar you need.

Kanji Master

The Kanji Master is the one I studied the least and I regret it. It has the kanji practice for the kun (phonetics) but also does the all important hiragana to kanji and back again checks that will be so important on the tests. If you’re wanting to pass, get a hold of this book and go through all of it. I found it late, so I couldn’t take advantage of it like I wanted to, so don’t make my mistake.

Remember though, even if you study and study these books, it’s not enough. Read Japanese books, newspapers, watch dramas, make sure your Japanese immersion is coming to you through more interesting, and thus memorable, ways. Otherwise, you won’t retain this information, and you’re going to need it in your future job, not just for a test.

Anyways, I don’t know what the future holds for me, but I’ll figure something out I’m sure. I’m worried, but I’m confident that I’ll find something so that I can stay in Japan. I have built a life here, and I don’t want to give it up just yet. I’ll be fine, it’s just hard to think that way after a small setback in the plans. But I’ll just keep going, and hopefully something will come around.

 

Posted in Jobs in Japan

Working on the Future: Take Your Chance When It Comes

In my previous post, I did a vlog about the After JET Program experiences I had, but along the way I mentioned some regrets I held over not taking some chances that would’ve made my life much easier when I left JET. Everybody, I think, has these kinds of thoughts. We look back and in hindsight we could’ve done more or done this thing or gone to this event, generally the regrets are things we didn’t do.

Opportunities can pass by so quickly. One minute you’re contemplating whether or not you should do something, and then all of a sudden, BOOM! That precious moment, probably vital, is gone. When I had the opportunity to get TEFL/TESOL certified, I should’ve gone ahead and signed up for those classes. Without it, I ended up struggling after JET to get a direct hire position. I eventually got one through the merits of my hard work, but I could’ve saved myself nearly two years of effort. Taking those kinds of chance, to better improve yourself in your field (whether you want to stay in it or not) are always good investments.

Many people I know in Japan have taken online classes or correspondence courses in order to accumulate credits for graduate school. I don’t particularly want to do graduate school, but I realize in this day and age the more education I receive, the more the payout will be later. Besides, if you’re not interested in teaching in Japan forever, that would be the smart move. Or let’s say you want to stay in Japan but simply don’t want to teach, then gaining experience in a different field through certifications gained by online courses or correspondence is a great way to start busting out of that bubble.

 

You also need to network, as in introduce yourself to new people when and where you can and discover what they do. If you’ve got a similar interest, or they know an insiders look into something you want to do, you need to exchange contact info. Even for English teaching, use those business cards and hand them out like they’re candy. You need to expand the people you know, so that you can help them and they can help you when it comes to professional matters.

For me, I have wanted to do freelance or writing in some aspect. Unfortunately, I didn’t quite start hard on my blog when I came to Japan. I was a sporadic in posting, to say the least, because I never thought I would be doing it as a means to an end. Back in the day (she says like she’s so old), blogs were considered a small media form, not really useful or taken seriously.

Nowadays? You can actually make blogging and vlogging a full time career. I wish I’d done more with my previous blog, that way it could’ve grown into something amazing over the course of the three years I kept it up. Granted, now I understand how blogging connections work, and how to make my “brand” (that’s kind of weird to say) stand out a little. I’ve got Facebook, Twitter, YouTube Channel, an Instagram all connected to this blog. I’ve learned and improved quite a bit over the years, but I just wish I’d improved a little faster or done more with the time I had in the past.

However, that’s not to say I’ve done nothing. I’ve been writing for online sites when I can, and I’m going to continue to do my best with this site. Progress, no matter how small, counts as an accomplishment. Still, the future comes quickly, and missed opportunities can mean a lot of roadblocks in your path to your end goal that you could’ve avoided. It’s important to do what you can when you can. Even if you’re working a full time job, even if you’re doing overtime, you’ve got to make time to do something for the betterment of your future.

Your future self will thank you, and you will be where you want to be.